DETROIT — Mercedes-Benz is seeking new ways to find customers as the industry prepares for major shifts in vehicle ownership and the types of vehicles sold.
From gaming events to pop-up shops, the goal is to make the brand more approachable and relevant to consumers who might not have considered a Mercedes in the past, Britta Seeger, the brand's global sales boss, said last week at the Automotive News World Congress here.
"We want to go where the customer is," Seeger said.
Mercedes estimates that 25 percent of its new- and used-vehicle sales will be completed online by 2025. It will work closely with dealers on the transformation to that digital future, Seeger said. She describes the brick-and-mortar Mercedes dealership network, with its Autohaus-design buildings, as one of the company's key assets.
But there are other ways to tap consumers. Several Mercedes me stores have opened around the globe in places such as busy urban districts and airports. The company also is operating pop-up shops for short periods. The first U.S. pop-up store opened late last year in an Atlanta shopping mall, and more are planned this year.
"The customer or prospect or just somebody who wants to drop by is taken into a Mercedes world without a feeling of Autohaus," she said. "This is very much appreciated. We have excellent results from the customers. They just love to come."
The industry shift will disrupt the conventional business model in other ways, Seeger said. She talked about what Daimler AG's CASE strategy — the automaker's shorthand for connectivity, autonomous driving, shared use and electric drive systems — means for sales and marketing. As part of the bid for new customer groups, Mercedes is joining the all-electric Formula E racing series and sponsoring esports — multiplayer video games played for spectators.
"Many of you would say, 'Hmm, is this really a sport?' " Seeger, 48, said. "Yes, we consider it an important trend in the world. Yes, hundreds of millions of customers are egaming, and this is a very important customer and prospect with whom we want to interact in the future."
While pursuing the CASE strategy demands hefty investment and creates questions about the future, it opens a lot of opportunities, she said.
"We truly believe this is a huge chance for us," Seeger said. "We have to be fast. We have to have the right mindset."